‘State’ violence
The Secret History of Las Vegas
in Chris Abani
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This chapter analyses The Secret History of Las Vegas, Abani’s latest novel. The history of the Nevada Nuclear Test Site functions as the background of this crime novel: as an example of state violence against the environment, the nuclear explosions transform into issues of human rights when read alongside black conjoined twins Fire and Water’s lives. The novel thus explores how state violence affects earth and bodies alike, and how ‘extraordinary bodies’ have and can claim rights, sometimes in a violent way. Bodily difference is therefore narrated as a matter of performance and spectacle, because of Fire and Water’s job in a freak show; but also as a scientifically defined disability. In this ‘investigative’ novel, Abani once again touches on what we consider ‘human’ and the role the state has in creating and policing such notion.

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